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Stuart’s Coat, Sara’s Spectacles, and Jessica’s Glove

I’ve been thinking lately about what is it about some writers that make their books magical for readers in ways that others aren’t.

First, a confession: I read contemporary romance, romantic suspense, and paranormals, but historical romance was my first love and remains my absolute favorite.  So, with my bias fully admitted and setting aside the continuing gush of wallpaper historicals in which you can’t even tell the time period a book is supposedly set in unless the author tells you, there are some talented writers out there I’ve come to admire and who have become auto-buys for me.  Still, the ones I’m watching have yet to come up with one of those scenes.

I’m talking about those hit-you-in-the-heart scenes. The kind you remember. The kind you share with other readers who very often respond “Yes!” The kind that make you feel what the characters are feeling.

I love the scene in which Bobby Tom realizes that Gracie made an “X” over his heart in Heaven, Texas.  Equally, the “you are my Egypt” scene from Connie Brockway’s As You Desire has to rank as one of the greatest declarations of love in all of romance. And I’ve sighed since I was 14 over the scene in Devil’s Cub in which Mary attempts to break up hotheaded Vidal’s sword fight by stepping in the middle of the action. Vidal’s reaction makes Mary realize for the very first time that her spoiled and haughty Devil’s Cub really loves her.  I felt it too and I will never forget the first time I read it.

But, for me, three scenes stand out that perfectly exemplify just what I’m talking about.

Stuart’s Coat from Judith Ivory’s Untie My Heart: When heroine Emma first sees hero Stuart, the former con artist is dazzled by the hero who is on every level “more” than an Englishman. He enters the bank where she is posing as a stenographer with an outsized retinue of servants and a coat that fascinates her. The author’s description of the coat is deceptively simple: Vicuna wool fully lined in silver white chinchilla.  Ah, but those words don’t do justice to the romance of the coat. It ripples.  It flows.  It swirls around his ankles in dramatic fashion. And it makes a most wonderful display as Stuart drapes it over his chair and sits nonchalantly on the fur throughout the business meeting. Through the author’s masterly description of that coat through Emma’s eyes, the great Ms. Ivory makes the reader understand just how exotic—and appealing—a creature he is, an extravagant peacock perched for a moment in Emma’s Spartan world.  Emma is captivated and as readers we are, too.

Sara’s Spectacles in Dreaming of You By Lisa Kleypas: There are many reasons this book is beloved by so many, not the least of which is hero Derek Craven. Crusading heroine Sara comes to London from her quiet village life to research the lives of prostitutes for a novel she plans to write. She lands in Derek’s gaming club that, indeed, employs “house wenches” and soon enough attracts the attention of jaded Derek himself. The love story between the almost too good Sara and a hero who is anything but remains one of my all time favorites. While there are many heart-stopping moments in this wonderful book, there is a scene in the last third only a few paragraphs long that has always been special to me. In it, after a separation from Derek, Sara discovers that the man who very much wants her to believe has no feelings for her is carrying next to his heart a pair of spectacles she had long believed were lost. It is but a brief moment in a lovely book, but it shows the reader—and Sara—that Derek is, indeed, hopelessly in love with a woman he believes he could never have.  It is a scene I’ve never forgotten.

Jessica’s Glove from Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase: The AAR readers who keep voting this book their favorite romance of all time know the glove scene. In it, the incredible Marquess of Dane removes a glove from heroine Jessica’s wrist and hand. And, oh, my how the words “removes a glove” don’t even begin to cover the erotic longing that the scene conveys.  As he undoes each little pearl button, Dain is overpowered by his desire for a woman he’s not even sure he likes.

“He had relieved whores beyond counting of frocks, stays, chemises, garters, and stockings. He’d never before in his life unbuttoned a gently bred maiden’s glove. He had committed salacious acts beyond number. He’d never once felt so depraved as he did now, as the last pearl came free and he drew the soft kid down, baring her wrist, and his dark fingers grazed the delicate skin he’d exposed.

“He was too busy searching Dain’s Dictionary for a definition of his state—and too confused by what he read there—to realize that Miss Jessica Trent’s grey eyes had taken on the drunkenly bewildered expression of a respectable spinster being seduced in spite of herself.”

Can I hear an amen?

So, what scenes do you remember?  When you think about books you love, which moments will you always remember?

—Sandy AAR

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